Penn State football returns home to face Ohio in home opener

Story posted September 10, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Alex Rocco

Penn State was dealt a tough draw for its opening contest of the 2022 campaign, traveling to West Lafayette to take on Purdue, but it came away with a 35-31 victory. 

The Nittany Lions were led by quarterback Sean Clifford who threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns while also finding the endzone on the ground.

With the blue and white trailing by three with under three minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Clifford completed six of seven passes for 72 yards and finished off the drive by delivering a 10-yard pass to running back Keyvone Lee for the score.

In his first game as a Nittany Lion, wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley put on a show catching seven passes for 84 yards and scoring the first touchdown of the year for Penn State, while tight end Brenton Strange had a 67-yard touchdown.

On the defensive end, James Franklin’s squad struggled to generate pressure due to Purdue's offense predicated on throwing quick passes.

Cornerback Joey Porter Jr. dropped what seemed to be a pick-six but bounced back, recording six pass breakups, while forcing a fumble that was recovered by safety Zakee Wheatley. 

In Week 2, the blue and white should have more breathing room in its home opener against Ohio.

The Bobcats had a lackluster 2021 season, going 3-9, but they impressed in their season opener, defeating Florida Atlantic 41-38.

“I thought they went out and played really well in Game 1 and did some really good things,”  Franklin said. “So that'll be a challenge.”

The green and white had one of the worst offenses in the nation a year ago, averaging just 22.6 points per game.

However, in the second season under coach Tim Albin, the offense looked significantly improved, as quarterback Kurtis Rourke threw for 345 yards and four touchdowns in the victory.

Rourke’s performance caught the attention of Franklin, who praised the field general for his play in Week 1.

“Kurtis Rourke, their quarterback, we’re impressed with,” Franklin said. “Big, strong kid, high completion percentage.”

A big reason for the Bobcats' turnaround on offense is that they prioritize throwing the ball, as last year, they finished last in the MAC in pass attempts, yards and touchdowns.

While Rourke threw the ball 34 times a week ago, Ohio's offensive attack is still focused on getting the ball to its best playmaker, Sieh Bangura.

In the victory, Bangura racked up 114 yards on 23 carries which were 16 more yards than Penn State had as a team last week.

“The running back is a local kid from Maryland,” Franklin said. “We’ve been impressed with him.”

With the Nittany Lions defensive line struggling a week ago and the secondary playing at a high level, Bangura could be in for a heavy workload.

If the Bobcats choose to throw at a similar rate as they did in Week 1, wide receiver James Bostic is a player to watch.

Bostic, who played in just five games after transferring from Vanderbilt last season, hauled in more receiving yards a week ago than he had in each of his three collegiate seasons.

Similar to Penn State, Ohio has a new defensive system led by newly hired defensive coordinator Spence Nowinsky, who was formerly the linebackers coach at Miami (OH).

“To be able to watch him in Game 1 and then be able to go back and watch what he did at Miami of Ohio I think was important,” Franklin said. “Obviously, first games are challenging, second games can still be challenging because you still don't have a whole lot of data to study.”

Some defensive players who jumped out to Franklin are linebacker Bryce Houston, who led the team with 104 tackles, including eight tackles for loss and two sacks in 2021, defensive tackle Rodney Mathews and safety Tariq Drake.

The Bobcats’ starting punter from 2021, Jake Wilson, didn’t play against Florida Atlantic, and his status for Saturday is unclear.

Ohio is set to start true freshman Nathaniel Vakos once again at kicker after he drilled both field goal attempts and five extra points last weekend.

Alex Rocco is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email